estate planning and sports memorabilia

From Field to Heirloom: Strategies for Passing Down Sports Memorabilia in Your Estate Plan

You may have spent decades building up your sports memorabilia collection. Maybe you have some rare cards and autographed pictures that have steadily gained value over the years, and now they are worth a significant amount of money. You go to great lengths to keep these items in mint condition. But are you protecting them in your estate plan?

Every collection starts with a single piece that sparks passion in the collector. For Joel Platt, who has spent seven decades accumulating the world’s largest collection of sports mementos, it all started with a 1933 Babe Ruth baseball card

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vacation property estate planning

Sun, Sand, and Succession: Estate Planning Tips for Your Vacation Property

A vacation property can be one of the most valuable things you can pass down to your loved ones, from both a sentimental and financial standpoint.

However, mixing money and family can be tricky. Without a well-thought-out strategy for the ownership transition, hard feelings and disputes could arise, and the vacation home could be used in ways you did not intend.

Beyond family dynamics and legacy objectives, transferring a vacation property to the next generation also has legal and tax implications that need to be addressed in an estate plan.

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trump vs biden 2024 tax policies

What Another Trump Presidency Could Mean for Real Estate Owners?

Ready or not, we are entering another presidential election season.

If you are like most Americans, the economy is top of mind when it comes to evaluating the candidates. But even if you do not intend to vote, the tax policies of the next administration could have a major impact on your personal wealth and estate planning strategies. 

In the area of tax policy, the 2024 election is set to leave its mark. Candidates are unlikely to use the term estate planning, but they frequently use the language of tax policy to discuss issues that affect a person’s estate value and the inheritance they leave behind. 

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older couple estate planning

Only Husband's Name On a Grant Deed: What Happens When He Dies?

Let’s say the husband’s name is on a grant deed only. Perhaps his credit was better at the time of purchasing the house, maybe the couple had other reasons; perhaps they thought they will fix it later but never did it...

If you are an estate planning attorney or a real estate agent, you see this a lot.

One day, the husband passes away. How does the house go to the wife, the widow? Does the wife have to go to the heaven to get a signature from the husband to sell the house? (She thinks he’s in heaven.)

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jay leno Hollywood walk of fame

What You Can Learn from the Leno Conservatorship Proceedings

When most people think about creating an estate plan, they usually focus on what will happen when they die. They typically do not consider what their wishes would be if they were alive but unable to manage their own affairs (in other words, if they are alive but incapacitated).

In many cases, failing to plan for incapacity can result in families having to seek court involvement to manage a loved one’s affairs. 

Recently, comedian and late night talk show host Jay Leno had to seek court involvement to handle his and his wife’s estate planning needs due to his wife’s incapacity.

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divorce-proof your finances

How to Divorce-Proof Your Finances

A good trust will have built-in protections for your children and your entire family. An experienced, competent attorney will make sure that the trusts contains an inheritance trust for your son or your daughter, so it’s divorce-proof.

When you pass away, the funds go to your son and daughter, and if your son or daughter gets
a divorce, their spouse cannot touch it. So, the trust allows you to control from the grave, so to speak, to protect from the grave the finances of your children and grandchildren.

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how much life insurance is enough

Do You Have Enough Life Insurance?

About 90 million Americans depend on life insurance for financial protection and retirement security. An almost equal number say that they either do not have any life insurance or need more life insurance. More than one-third say they plan to purchase coverage in the next year.

With very few exceptions, life insurance can benefit everyone. Owning life insurance is necessary, especially if you have dependents. But while you might understand that buying life insurance is a good move, you may be unsure whether you have enough, how to determine the ideal amount for you and your family, and where life insurance fits into your overall financial and estate plans.

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insurance beneficiary

Who Should You Name as a Beneficiary?

The proceeds from your life insurance policy can benefit your loved ones in many ways, from paying off your outstanding debts to providing supplemental income for your spouse and children to covering funeral and burial expenses.

Life insurance policy payouts average $168,000.[1] As the policyholder, you can—and should—name beneficiaries of the policy. Generally, however, when a policyholder passes, the named beneficiaries receive their share of the death benefit outright and in a lump sum without stipulations or conditions.

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life insurance for a family

Creative Uses for Life Insurance

According to a new study from LIMRA and Life Happens, two nonprofit industry trade associations, a record-high number of American adults—approximately 102 million—either do not have life insurance or do not have enough coverage.

Misunderstandings about how much life insurance costs and what type to purchase are the largest barriers to purchasing a policy. Even among those with a life insurance policy, there are knowledge gaps about how it can be used to meet their financial and estate planning goals.

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Lucille Ball walk of fame

Lucille Ball: Dangers of Being the First to Die

Lucille Ball was the queen of television comedy to an older generation of Americans. Today, more than 70 years after I Love Lucy premiered, reruns still air on late-night networks, making it the longest-broadcasted TV show of all time and endearing Ball to a new generation of fans.

Rankings of the best I Love Lucy episodes can be found across the web. There are also real-life lessons to learn from Ball, including from a lesser-known episode involving her daughter and her widower’s second wife that provides important estate planning lessons about remarriage.

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Aretha Franklin Walk of Fame

Aretha Franklin: Too Much Estate Planning

Too little estate planning can put your heirs in a bind and tie up your estate in time-consuming and costly probate litigation. But as the legal saga of Aretha Franklin’s estate shows, too much estate planning—in particular, planning that introduces uncertainty about your final wishes—can also be problematic.

After her death, there are lessons to learn from the Queen of Soul about how to R-E-S-P-E-C-T your legacy—and your heirs—with a well-thought-out, professionally prepared estate plan.

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Vanderbilt mansion

Gloria Vanderbilt: No Trust Fund Kids for Her

We are at the precipice of what is being called “The Greatest Wealth Transfer in History,” as baby boomers are set to pass down $84 trillion to younger generations.[1] Every parent wants to see their children succeed. But some may wonder whether an inheritance will help promote or hinder the future success of their children.

Famous mom Gloria Vanderbilt was staunchly against trust funds for her kids. And at least one of them applauds her decision.

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pensions and estate planning

Are Pensions Treated the Same in Your Estate Plan as Other Retirement Accounts?

Pension and retirement accounts often form a large portion of an individual’s wealth and should be accounted for in an estate plan. If a retirement account holder completes a proper beneficiary designation, their account assets will bypass probate.

Account holders often designate a surviving spouse or children as beneficiary, but they could also name a trust or a charity.

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intrafamily loans

Intrafamily Loans and How They Work

An intrafamily loan is a financial arrangement between family members—one who is lending and another who is borrowing. An intrafamily loan may be used to help a family member who needs money for a number of reasons:

  • buying a home
  • funding or purchasing shares in a business
  • adding accounts or property to investment portfolios
  • paying down high-interest debt
  • covering education expenses
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disability and estate planning

What to Do When a Disability Throws Your Estate Plan into Chaos

As poet Robert Burns mused centuries ago, the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Despite thoughtful effort and a concerted strategy, you cannot prepare for every emergency in life. A car accident, sudden illness, workplace injury, or chronic medical condition can force you to reevaluate the core assumptions you used to plan your future and set up your legacy.

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children and estate planning

Who Will Care for Your Child When You Cannot?

As a parent, you are responsible for the care of your minor child. In most circumstances, this means getting them up for school, making sure they are fed, and providing for other basic needs. However, what would happen if you and your child’s other parent were unable to care for them?

 It is important to note that if something were to happen to you, your child’s other parent is most likely going to have full authority and custody of your child, unless there is some other reason why they would not have this authority. 

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estate planning and trust administration attorneys

What Is the Difference Between a Probate and Trust Administration Attorney and an Estate Planning Attorney?

Estate planning attorneys and probate and trust administration attorneys play crucial but distinct roles in the legal processes involving legacy planning, asset distribution, and wealth preservation.

Estate planning attorneys focus on creating a plan to manage a person’s money, property, and affairs upon their death or if they are unable to manage it themselves. Probate and trust administration attorneys, on the other hand, deal with settling an estate or trust after the person has passed away. While there can be some overlap between these roles, not every attorney handles both.

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What Happens to Real Estate With a Mortgage When I Die?

Your mortgage, like the rest of your debt, does not simply disappear when you die. If you leave your home that has an outstanding loan to a beneficiary in your will or trust, your beneficiary will inherit not only the property but also the outstanding debt.

They may have the right to take over the mortgage and keep the home, or they may choose to sell it and keep the proceeds. A few different scenarios can unfold, however, depending on the mortgage terms and the estate plan instructions.

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business assets and estate tax

If You Own Any of These Assets, You Need to Watch Their Value

As we begin 2024, it is crucial to review estate planning goals and strategies that may be affected by changes in the federal estate tax exemption law.

At the end of 2025, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) the estate tax exemption, which is $10 million, adjusted for inflation, may revert to the pre-2017 exemption amount, cutting it almost in half. Depending on the types of accounts and property you own, you may need to pay close attention to their value.

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estate tax in california wealthy family

Case Study: How Concerned Should You Be about Estate Tax Issues?

If you have significant wealth, you may be exposed to future estate tax burdens that must be acted on before the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act reduces the estate tax exemption in 2026. Developing and implementing the right estate planning and tax strategies takes time. You may need to prepare regardless of whether the estate tax continues at its current level or if it is cut in half. This means strategizing to minimize your estate tax liability now.

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gift tax in los angeles

The Countdown Begins: Will We Keep the $10 Million Exemption?

The year 2026 is quickly approaching, bringing substantial changes that may affect your estate tax situation. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) in 2017 significantly increased the federal estate tax exemption to $10 million adjusted for inflation. This is the amount you can gift or leave to your loved ones at your death without incurring a gift or estate tax liability. Any portion of the exemption used during lifetime reduces the total exemption amount available at death for estate tax purposes.

However, the countdown has begun for the potential sunset of this generous exemption by the end of 2025. Adjusting for inflation, the Congressional Budget Office estimates the new exemption amount will be $6.4 million in 2026.

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family money trust

How Much Authority Does a Trustee Have Over the Stuff in My Trust?

A trustee is a person or entity responsible for managing and administering your trust according to your instructions and in accordance with state law. They are considered a fiduciary (meaning they are held to a higher standard of care and owe certain duties to the beneficiaries).

As a fiduciary, a trustee must protect the trust’s investments and act in the best interests of the beneficiaries. They must prepare and maintain trust accounting records and prepare tax-related forms, providing this information to the beneficiaries at their request.

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beloved pet

6 Things You Need to Do Now to Protect Your Beloved Pets

Pets sometimes outlive their owners. If you suffer an accident or illness, it could leave your cat, dog, horse, iguana, or any other pet without a caregiver, which, without proper planning, could result in your beloved pet being sent to an animal rescue or shelter that is not of your choosing.

Take a few steps to protect your beloved pet’s future and ensure they are always cared for, no matter what happens.

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Who Will Care for Your Pet?

When selecting a caregiver for your pet, most people look to a trusted family member or friend who may be willing to care for them. This person has probably spent time with your pet and already knows their typical routines and behaviors, making them more comfortable taking on the responsibility. This choice may also provide your pet with a familiar environment. However, taking on a new furry family member is a big responsibility that requires some considerations.

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loved ones estate plan

Should You Share Your Estate Planning Details With Loved Ones?

When you decide to create a comprehensive estate plan, there are many things to consider. One is whether to tell your loved ones about your plan and how much information to share with them. Estate planning can be a complex and sensitive matter, so your choice may depend on your unique relationships with loved ones and your family dynamics.

Sharing your estate plan with your loved ones can compromise the privacy of your financial and personal information. Some people therefore prefer to keep these matters private, especially when it comes to distributions of significant amounts of money or property. There are both advantages and disadvantages to revealing private information related to your estate plan.

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living trust for pets

Ways to Provide Money to Care for Your Beloved Pet

There are several options to ensure that money will be available so your beloved furry family member will continue to receive the same level of care and support that you have always given them.

You will want to evaluate the weekly, monthly, and annual costs associated with your pet’s needs. This process will help you determine a specific amount required to cover your pet’s anticipated lifetime expenses.

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estate planning team

Assembling Your Own (Estate Planning) Team

Some of us may enjoy games like fantasy football that allow us to assemble our own star team with the players we think will provide the most value.

While fantasy football is fun to participate in, have you ever given thought to the importance of establishing your own dream team? Just like in fantasy football, each player has their own strengths and addresses a different part of the game that leads to the team’s overall success.

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trust fund kids

The Real Story Behind Trust Fund Kids

According to a Forbes article published in 2021 about trust fund kids, three of the most common misconceptions are that trust fund kids all come from ridiculously rich families, they have it easy, and everyone who has serious money must have a trust fund.[1]

While these misconceptions may apply to some trust fund kids, it does not apply to the majority. The reality is that a trust fund kid does not necessarily live a life filled with lavish trips, designer clothes, and expensive cars—they are simply a young beneficiary of a trust. 

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your legacy and estate planning

Your Legacy: How Do You Want to Be Remembered?

As Thomas Campbell, physicist and the author of My Big TOE, once said, “To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die.” When we lose a loved one, we often have memories of special events and occasions, support they provided us, or specific qualities of that person we will never forget.

An epitaph, by definition, is a brief phrase or sentence expressing a sentiment, often inscribed on a tombstone. Epitaph Day is a symbolic event dedicated to the contemplation and creation of our desired epitaphs. It is a gentle and meaningful reminder of the impermanent nature of life and the importance of having a plan for the future. 

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cemetery in Southern California

Do Not Become an Estate Planning Statistic

Estate planning is important for everyone. It is about protecting yourself, your loved ones, and your hard-earned money (even if you do not have a lot of it).

However, the numbers do not lie: most people do not see the importance of estate planning. Whether you need to create an estate plan or update an existing one, do not put it off.

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Living Trust by California Estate Planning Attorney Paul Horn

Estate Planning Roll Call: Important Legal Tools You Should Have

As with any roll call, it is important to make sure that everyone is present and accounted for. Similarly, when assessing an estate plan, several legal tools, or documents, should be in attendance to accomplish the goal of a complete and comprehensive plan.

You have likely heard the term estate planning, but you may not be familiar with which legal tools typically comprise a complete estate plan. We want to teach you about the legal tools that should be included in your plan and what benefits and protections each legal tool can provide. 

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Paul Horn estate planning attorney

Top 3 Reasons You Need an Up-to-Date Estate Plan

Most of us do not dedicate our time to learning more about topics like estate planning, because we may not know that we need an estate plan or realize the benefits associated with having one.

There are some common beliefs you may have about estate planning that may be inaccurate: that having a will avoids probate, being married means everything a spouse owns goes to their surviving spouse, and a person does not need an estate plan if they own few assets.

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pamela horn piano prodigy

From Piano Lessons to Carnegie Hall: Celebrating a Journey of Music and Achievement

In life, some moments take you by surprise, and then some moments leave you astounded. Today, I’m excited to share one of those awe-inspiring moments from my own life, something I don’t typically do.

It’s a story that began two and a half years ago when my wife and I decided to enroll our daughter, Pamela, in piano lessons.

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bills and services to cancel when your loved one dies

Bills and Services to Cancel—and Keep—When a Loved One Dies

A loved one’s passing is challenging on many different levels. In addition to the emotional difficulty of processing someone’s death, there are also the many tasks that must be dealt with, such as going through their various accounts and taking the necessary steps to cancel them or transfer ownership.  

 Most people subscribe to multiple digital subscription services in addition to utilities, insurance, memberships, medical prescriptions, and other recurring payment programs. Settling these accounts helps avoid unnecessary charges and protect against identity theft and fraud.

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grandchildren and grandparents

Three Types of Trusts to Plan for Minor Children and Grandchildren

There are certain reasons that establishing an estate plan can be of the utmost importance. Having minor children or grandchildren is one of those reasons. Most parents do not have time to keep up with their own tasks, let alone consider what would happen if they died while their children were still minors, but having a comprehensive plan in place for their children is very important.

It can be motivating to know that a well thought-out and carefully drafted plan can last over eighteen years. Most parents have carefully considered what values they want to instill upon their children, but you may not realize that establishing a trust can allow you to essentially parent from beyond the grave.

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four things your spouse should know before you die

Four Things Your Spouse Should Know Before You Die

It is normal for married couples to share almost every aspect of their lives with each other. But when it comes to death, even the closest couples might become tight-lipped about certain topics. According to one study, half of all couples fail to discuss their dying wishes.1

 Death is final for the departed. For the surviving spouse, death can leave unanswered questions. As uncomfortable as it might be to discuss subjects like burial arrangements and remarriage, they should be broached as part of creating a comprehensive estate plan.

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continuing trust

Four Things to Consider When Using a Continuing Trust

Not all children are responsible enough to handle a large lump sum inheritance at age eighteen without some guidance. Most children would be tempted to spend it all on fast cars, designer clothes, lavish vacations, or maybe even to quit their job. It is important to educate yourself on the options available in the event you die prior to your children reaching the age of majority.

A continuing trust is a great option to ensure that the money you worked so hard for lasts to provide your children with the future you envision. A continuing trust holds money for a specific period of time and does not distribute it outright. 

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planning for your child's future

Personal Guidance from Beyond the Grave

Life can get hectic for parents when the school year starts. Parents often juggle many different responsibilities, which increase with the number of children they have and activities the children participate in. Most parents feel like they need to be in five places at once!

 As a parent, you have likely pictured what your child’s future will look like, but how many times have you considered what would happen if you were unable to be a part of their future? This is a sad thought to consider for everyone, however, taking steps now to put a plan in place can offer you peace of mind so that if the unexpected happens, your child will receive the benefit of your hard work and planning.

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family conflict and estate planning

Limited Impact of Estrangement on Estate Planning

Unfortunately, rifts sometimes arise between family members that are much more serious than just temporary squabbles. The result may be estrangement, defined as “the state of being alienated or separated in feeling or affection; a state of hostility or unfriendliness” or “the state of being separated or removed.”  Estrangement does not mean that the relationship has come to an end legally, however.   

 A husband may move out of the home he shared with his wife and have limited or no contact with her or their children. A child who has been abused may live with a relative and avoid contact with their parent. A parent may choose not to associate with a child who has committed crimes or abused their trust.

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conflict in estate planning

Nine Ways Your Estate Plan Could Breed Conflict

Friction between family members can escalate during a scorching summer heatwave. Likewise, a flawed estate plan has the potential to breed conflict, mistrust, and financial turmoil among your beneficiaries in several ways.

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estate planning for your boat

Estate Planning Strategies for Your Boat That Are Not Sunk

As summer approaches and open waters beckon, it is important to consider a unique aspect of estate planning that can often be overlooked—your boats and watercraft. These vessels bring you joy and unforgettable memories, but they also warrant special attention when it comes to safeguarding your legacy as part of your comprehensive estate plan.

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parents and children inheritance

What Is Your Relationship with Your Parents?

Your relationship with your parents and with your own children is important for several reasons, including developing an effective estate plan. Simply maintaining a loving relationship with a parent does not necessarily guarantee inheritance rights.

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estate plan

Have You Outgrown Your Estate Plan?

As estate planning attorneys, we work hard to set up estate plans that fit a client’s needs and ensure that everything works together for the client and their loved ones. Estate plans remain effective as long as they accurately reflect a client’s circumstances and current state and federal tax law. However, circumstances often change. So, too, should your estate plan.

Outdated plans not only jeopardize your wishes and legacy vision but may also negatively impact your loved ones and yourself.

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ethics in estate planning

Infusing the Principles of Etiquette into Your Estate Plan

May is National Etiquette Month, and the goal is to encourage all people to act with consideration, respect, and honesty in their interactions with others and in their everyday lives.

Etiquette can also play a role in estate planning. A well-crafted estate plan ensures that your wishes are respected and that your loved ones are taken care of.

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california probate rules

Important Probate Rules You Should Know

When a person dies, what happens next depends on whether the deceased person had any foundational estate planning documents such as a last will and testament (otherwise known as a will) or trust, who the living relatives are, and their relationship to the person who died.

If the deceased person did not have a trust or will, the state where the deceased person resided has rules for overseeing how the deceased person’s money and property are to be distributed.

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how much do you know about taxes

Quiz: How Much Do You Know About Taxes?

True or false? Estate tax makes up the largest percentage of revenue collected by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)?

 False. Approximately 50 percent of the IRS’s revenue comes from income tax, while only 1 percent comes from estate and gift taxes. This is why the income tax aspect of planning is so valuable, especially when the transfer tax exemptions are so high.

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gifts and taxes california

Balancing Act: What Matters Most to You?

When people begin getting their affairs in order through the creation of an estate plan, they often face a delicate balancing act between saving on income and estate taxes, protecting their hard-earned savings from their ultimate beneficiaries’ creditors, and providing maximum benefit to their loved ones.

Finding the right balance requires careful consideration of the different legal and financial tools available to help you fulfill the vision of your estate plan.

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taxes affect estate planning

Taxes That Can Impact Your Estate Plan

Estate planning involves deciding how to plan for the management of your money, property, and well-being before your death and how to distribute your money and property after your death.

A comprehensive estate plan should consider the impact that taxes can have on your estate and ensure that your estate is distributed in a tax-efficient manner.

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who is your trustee

Have You Chosen the Right Trustee?

Whether you are reviewing your existing trust or creating a new trust, you should understand the important role that a trustee plays not only in handling trust matters but also in providing for and protecting your loved ones.

A trust is an agreement between an owner of accounts and property (trustmaker) and another person (trustee) who agrees to manage the accounts and property on behalf of a third party (beneficiary). 

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deathbed estate planning

Why Deathbed Planning Might Give You Additional Grief

None of us likes to think about our own death or enjoys planning for that occasion. However, if you do not create an estate plan or fail to update it regularly, you are likely setting your loved ones up for even more stress and grief after you pass away.

If you have not updated your estate plan to include loved ones who are not provided for in your existing plan, you may be tempted to make deathbed gifts. It may bring you pleasure to make significant gifts to loved ones because of the joy it may bring to them.

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will and trust by attorney Paul Horn

Ways Your Will Can Be Revoked

A will (which should be accompanied by other important documents such as healthcare and financial powers of attorney, as well as an advance healthcare directive) is a foundational estate planning document. However, according to Gallup, only 46 percent of US adults have a will. This number has remained consistent in Gallup polls dating back to 1990. 

If you are among the minority of Americans with this crucial estate planning document, then you probably recognize the risks of not having a will.

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estae planning pie

Slicing Your Estate Planning Pi(e)

What? You didn’t know that March 14 (3/14) is National Pi Day? We didn’t either until recently, but now we know this celebratory day was established (you guessed it!) by a physicist (Larry Shaw) to recognize the mathematical constant (𝛑) whose first three digits are 3.14—probably as an excuse to devour lots of pie.

National Pi Day is a great occasion to come to our office and discuss how you would like to slice your financial pie when you pass your wealth on to your children and loved ones. No complicated mathematical formulas are necessary.

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estate planning for children

Do Not Leave Your Minor Children’s Future to Luck

We associate March with St. Patrick’s Day and Irish traditions such as searching for four-leaf clovers, which are thought to bring good luck. One thing that parents should never leave to luck is providing for their minor children.

Young parents work hard to create a wonderful life for their children and pass on wealth to them in the future, but they also need to create a plan for their children’s care if something happens to them.

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women need estate planning

Ladies, You Need a Plan

In 1987, Congress passed a law recognizing March as Women’s History Month—a time to honor the contributions and achievements of women throughout American history in a variety of fields.

Women have played a vital role in building the United States into a strong and prosperous nation. Likewise, women are often the backbones of their own families, frequently focusing on meeting the needs of others rather than their own.

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Senior couple enjoying retirement

Have You Thought Through Your Retirement Plans?

Beginning your retirement is a great milestone that is worth celebrating. You have put in many years of hard work, and you are now able to focus your energy on the next phase of your life.

However, before you begin this next chapter, you need to make sure that you have fully thought through this exciting change in your life. With this new chapter come certain estate planning issues that you need to consider.

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Aaron Carter

Aaron Carter: A Life Gone Too Soon

Musician Aaron Carter, a former child pop star and younger brother of Backstreet Boys singer Nick Carter, died in November at the age of thirty-four.

Aaron’s untimely passing is one of the more tragic celebrity deaths of 2022. It is also one of the messiest from an estate planning perspective. The late singer, who struggled with substance abuse and family discord, died unmarried and without a will, raising questions about the value of his estate, what will become of his remaining fortune, and who will provide care for his young child

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spring break checklist for responsible adults

Spring Break Checklist

After a long, cold winter, many of us—from the young and to the more mature—are ready to make plans for spring break.

Here are a few important reminders, whether you plan to travel to take advantage of warmer weather by traveling or enjoy your spring break at home.

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senior woman planning taxes

The Deceased Spouse’s Unused Exemption Amount: a Spouse’s Final Gift

Spouses often work together to build wealth for themselves and their children. Congress recognized this by enacting the gift and estate tax portability election as part of the 2010 Taxpayer Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act and making it permanent in the American Taxpayer Relief of 2012, providing married couples with a relatively simple way to potentially shield much more of their wealth from federal gift and estate taxation.

If you have recently lost your spouse, it is important to consider whether you should take advantage of the portability election.

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seniors planning for retirement

Winter Planning for a Great Spring: Retirement Planning Update

Although we are still in the midst of winter, spring is on its way. It is important to remember upcoming April deadlines for retirement contributions and required minimum distributions (RMDs), but there have also been some recent developments that may impact your retirement planning.

 The retirement planning landscape has been evolving over the past several years, and we are committed to keeping you up to date on the latest developments and how they will impact your estate plans.

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mentoring and estate planning

January Is National Mentoring Month: Three Creative Ways to Use the Estate Planning Process to Be a Mentor

Celebrate National Mentoring Month this January by becoming a mentor to the people in your life who have less life experience, whether they are your children or other loved ones.

Mentors can have a huge positive impact on a young person’s life by sharing the wisdom, knowledge, and experience they have gained to help their mentee develop skills and goals that will enable them to succeed in life.

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Tax season in California

Tax Season Is Just around the Corner

For everything, there is a season, and it will soon be the season for taxes. Although it always seems to arrive too quickly, you will start to receive important tax documents by January 31. Whether you are filing as an individual or administering an estate or trust, you should start to prepare for tax day, April 18, 2023.

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child guardianship in California

Does the Guardian for My Child Have to Be a United States Citizen?

One of the more uncomfortable aspects of estate planning is deciding what will happen to your child if both you and the child’s other legal parent were to die unexpectedly.

While the odds of this happening are low, the consequences of not naming a legal guardian in your will or a separate document can be significant, since a court would have to choose somebody to care for your child without your input.

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retirement account children

Want to Leave Your Retirement Account to Your Minor Child? Consider These Things First

Your retirement account may be one of the most valuable things you own. Many people consider naming their children as the beneficiaries of these accounts because they think it is a way of easily transferring their wealth if something happens to them. However, there are some factors that make this type of transfer more complicated than you may think, especially if your child is a minor.

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unrecorded deed California

What Is the Effect of an Unrecorded Deed?

A deed is a legal document used to transfer real property ownership rights from one person or entity (the grantor) to another (the grantee). In many cases, this transfer occurs due to the property being sold, with the seller transferring the property to the buyer.

Typically, a deed is recorded with the local county recorder of deeds. Recording the deed gives the public notice that the grantee now legally owns the property.

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california inheritance and mental capacity

Things You Can Do to Help Prove You Are Mentally Competent When Executing Your Estate Plan

Although we would all like to believe that our family and loved ones will honor our wishes as expressed in our estate plan, contests are more common than you might think. Sometimes, a family member does not receive what they thought they would after a loved one passes away. To try to get what they think they are entitled to, they may file a lawsuit alleging that the person who made the will (the testator) or trust (the grantor) was not mentally competent to create it.

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estate planning milestones california

Important Milestones You Can Incorporate in Your Estate Plan

Life is full of contingencies. While some outcomes are relatively certain, other events are more difficult to predict. This uncertainty can create estate planning challenges. Because life changes quickly and sometimes unexpectedly, your estate plan needs to be flexible.

You can make changes to your estate plan when you are still alive, but when you pass away, your plan is effectively—but not entirely—set in stone. Incorporating milestones into your estate plan is one way to hedge against the unpredictable future. 

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advice on charitable giving

Different Types of Charitable Giving

The end of the year is a great time for you to think about donating to charity. Donations not only aptly express the generosity associated with the holiday season, but they help worthy organizations and allow you to save on taxes by claiming a charitable deduction.

While most people think of donating cash or financial accounts, donating property can be advantageous as well.

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unique gift ideas for family

Unique Gift Ideas that Benefit You Too

You may associate the month of December with giving holiday gifts, but it is also a great time for you to think about the valuable estate planning opportunity presented by year-end gift giving.

In making lifetime gifts, you can experience the pleasure of providing immediate benefits to your loved ones while shaping your legacy, for example, by funding a loved one’s education or starting a family tradition of charitable giving. There are several advantageous ways for you to make year-end gifts. 

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practical new year resolutions

Have You Made New Year’s Resolutions?

A new year is a great time to start fresh and implement positive changes that will enhance our lives. Many of us want to lose weight, spend more time with friends and family, eat healthier, learn a new skill, or save money. Although we can implement these goals anytime, the beginning of the new year is often a good starting point to help us measure our progress.

 There are pros and cons to setting New Year’s resolutions, and people have varying opinions about their helpfulness.

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how to protect retirement accounts

Five Reasons to Protect Your Retirement Accounts Now

Your retirement account provides asset protection during your lifetime, but as soon as you pass that account to a loved one, that protection evaporates.

When your spouse, child, or other loved one inherits your retirement account, creditors have the power to seize it and use the funds to satisfy their claims. This means one lawsuit and POOF!—your life-long, hard-earned savings could be gone. Your loved one could be left penniless.

Fortunately, there is a solution to this problem. A special trust called a standalone retirement trust (SRT) can protect inherited retirement accounts from your beneficiaries’ creditors.

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irrevocable trust

Is Irrevocable Trust a Useful Estate Planning Tool for Californians?

In California, there are two types of a living trust: revocable trust and irrevocable trust. Many homeowners do not fully understand the difference between the two. Furthermore, a myth rooted in decades-old taxation and estate planning realities has homeowners convinced that irrevocable trust is something that could save them money by reducing their tax burden.

In this blog post, we will discuss the best use of irrevocable trust and why this is not the most beneficial estate planning tool for most California homeowners.

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rogue successor trustee

What to Do if a Rogue Successor Trustee Refuses to Sell the Property?

What happens if a successor trustee named in a living trust goes rogue and refuses to carry out their duties? What if the same successor trustee takes action but does not follow the wishes of the original trustee?

In this blog post, we are going to examine a hypothetical scenario of a rogue successor trustee and what can be done to make them perform.

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California living trust for blended family

Have a Blended Family? Get a Living Trust or Risk a Major Heartbreak

Do you know what’s the most common objection to not having a living trust? “My situation is different.” Many California homeowners genuinely believe that while a living trust may be a valuable estate planning tool for somebody else, their personal situation is somehow unique. How unique? “Simpler.” Oh, it’s just me and my wife. Or: I only have one child; we’re leaving everything to our son anyway.

Admittedly, some families may benefit from a living trust more than others, and in some cases, having a trust is an absolute must. One of such situations is a blended family. This is what we are going to explore in this blog post.

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do I need probate

Do I Need Probate and How Does It Work?

Do I need probate and how does it work? These are two questions we get asked most often. While heirs in California may end up in probate court for a variety of reasons, certain situations are way more common than others.

If you are reading this article, chances are, you are going through something similar and looking for the answers. Keep reading to find out who needs probate in California and how a typical probate process plays out.  

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California family trust

What Happens if You Lose Your Copy of a Living Trust?

Consider this scenario: a married couple bought a house in California many years ago. Advised by a savvy real estate agent, they saw an estate planning attorney right away and created a family trust. In the trust, they have specified who gets their assets once they both pass away.

The couple had three children. Years later, the husband died. Another decade went by, and the wife passed away as well. The children knew that their parents had a living trust set up, but this was done years ago.  Now, they can’t find it. 

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California living trust benefits

What’s in a California Living Trust?

Most California homeowners at least have heard about a living trust. It’s a big binder full of documents, right? Not everyone, however, understands what’s inside that binder and what each of these documents do. 

Many California homeowners do not realize that a living trust contains a list of important legal documents, in addition to a revocable trust itself.

Keep reading because in this post we are going to unpack the binder and shine some light on what a complete trust package looks like.

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Probate taxes in California

Estate Taxes, Capital Gain Taxes, and Property Taxes in Probate: How Much Will You Have to Pay?

If you are selling a California home in probate, you may be concerned about various taxes. There are three major tax categories that need to be addressed:

  1. Estate Taxes
  2. Capital Gain Taxes
  3. Property Taxes

Luckily, for most California residents, not all of the above taxes are going to apply. Keep reading to learn which types of taxes you must pay, and how much the process is going to cost you.

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full authority VS limited authority probate

Full Authority VS Limited Authority in Probate: What Real Estate Agents Need to Know

While the probate process may continue for months, a property can be listed and sold in as little as 3 months, including the buyer taking possession of the property and the real estate agent collecting their commissions. This is something that many real estate professionals and heirs alike don’t always know.

Ultimately, the deciding factor on how soon one can list a probate property is the authority type. Keep reading to learn everything real estate agents need to know about full authority VS limited authority in California probate.

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creditors in probate

Probate and Creditors: Will Your Estate Have to Pay Them?

Very few people are completely debt-free. When a person passes away in California and they have no trust, the case goes to probate. Part of the probate process is dedicated to notifying and paying off the creditors. But do you have to pay all the creditors? Can some of the debts be wiped out? Is there a time limit on how long the creditors can keep knocking on your door, so to speak?

Continue reading to find out exactly how paying off debt works in probate and what can be done to minimize the estate’s liabilities!

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best probate real estate agent in California

How to Choose the Best Probate Real Estate Agent

In many California probate cases, the home is the biggest decedent’s asset. A significant number of cases involve mortgage encumbrance, and the estate does not have cash available to pay off the mortgage or any other debt that comes to light. For these reasons, many heirs decide that the best course of action is to sell the home, pay off mortgage loans, any other debts, and then divide the net proceeds among all the heirs.

While one cannot select a probate judge, a personal representative is free to choose the attorney who will represent the estate as well as the real estate agent who will list and market the property. To make sure that you get the best representation in complex probate matters, you want to choose a listing agent who either specializes or has proven experience with probate sales.

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living trust attorney in Lakewood

How to find the best living trust attorney in Lakewood, California?

The median price of a single-family home in Lakewood, California, is $699,999 (as of April 2021). If you are a responsible homeowner in Lakewood, having a living trust set up is a must.

After all, $700,000 is a lot of money for most people… If something happens to you, who is going to get the house? In addition to the main residence, some Lakewood homeowners also have one or several rental properties. Others may also have cash, stocks, bonds, businesses, etc.

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probate costs in california

How Much Does It Cost to Probate a House in California?

You did your own research and then checked with a qualified California attorney: probate cannot be avoided. For you to step into your parents’ shoes and become a rightful owner of the property, the house must go through the probate process at a local court.

The next question on every heir’s mind is usually the following: How much does it cost to probate a house in California? In this post, we will break down probate costs in California so, continue reading to find out what it takes to go through the probate process.

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best trust lawyer in Downey

Why Homeowners in Downey Need a Living Trust ASAP

For most Downey residents, their home is the biggest purchase they will ever make. One cannot get a loan without purchasing home insurance and most homeowners will not think twice about protecting their assets this way. Unfortunately, not every homeowner in Downey has a living trust. 

Just like many Californians, some Downey residents mistakenly think that a living trust is for wealthy individuals or families only. This cannot be further from the truth!

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personal representative in a probate

How to Become a Personal Representative in California Probate

A relative has passed away and you are about to inherit their California property. You are probably saddened by the passing of your loved one, and now you must step into their shoes and decide what you want to do with the house: sell it, rent it, maybe even live in it.

If the original owner of the home had a living trust set up, the process is easy. A living trust spells out exactly who the successor trustee or trustees are and details what happens to the decedent’s assets.

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los angeles probate court

How to Get the Most of the Probate Petition (Judicial Counsel Form DE-111) if You Are a Real Estate Agent or Investor

If you a California real estate agent or investor and you are looking to buy probate properties at a discount, you probably have been told to pull the Probate Petition, also known as Judicial Counsel Form DE-111.

You will want to get your hands on the same petition if you hope to score a listing too – in case the heirs decide to sell the inherited home, as it contains vital information you will need to attain your objective.

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how to avoid probate in california

9 Ways to Avoid Probate in California

Savvy California homeowners usually choose living trust as their estate planning tool of choice. A trust offers the ultimate “control from the grave” as it enables individuals and families to leave clear, executable instructions on how their assets should be distributed upon their death. Having a trust in place also avoids probate in California. 

In addition to a living trust, there are other exceptions to probate. We are going to go over all of them in this article.

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will vs trust in California

Will vs Living Trust in California: Which One Gives Better “Control from the Grave”?

Planning on what happens after we pass away makes many Americans uncomfortable. Pondering one’s death is hardly a desirable topic but the consequences of failing to make arrangements on what happens to your assets upon your death can be a lot more unpleasant than the planning process itself. Especially considering that we don’t get to redo our will or living trust once we pass away.

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Proposition 19 consequences to homeowners

Recently Passed CA Proposition 19 - How it Affects Homeowner Property Taxes

The recent passage of California Proposition 19 means substantial changes to the manner in which real property is reassessed in California.  These changes will bring greater flexibility to certain property owners who are over 55 or the victims of natural disasters but will mean greater restrictions on certain intra-family transfers (aka parent to child or grandparent to grandchild). 

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medi-cal recovery laws

The New Medi-Cal Recovery Laws

For individuals who die prior to January 1, 2017, the current recovery rules will apply, however, a new day will arise starting January 1, 2017.  Starting January 1, 2017, homeowners will longer have to choose between healthcare or passing their home to their children.  CANHR has provided a booklet which outlines applicable rules for both the current law, and the new law.

What is Medi-Cal?
Medi-Cal is California’s version of the Medicaid program that is funded jointly by the state and federal governments. It is designed to provide free or low-cost medical assistance for low income or low-resource individuals. There are many different Medi-Cal programs, and eligibility may depend on factors such as age, disability, income or assets. Covered California is California’s version of the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchange. It is not a Medi-Cal program. Any tax credits or subsidies received through Covered California are not subject to Medi-Cal recovery.

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New Law! Medi-Cal Cannot Touch Your Home

California  Senator Ed Hernandez  says  that Medi-Cal recovery forces homeowners who are over age 55 and who need Medi-Cal to choose between their own health care or passing their modest homes to their children.

Many have echoed the same sentiment that millions of low-income Californians age 55 and older are reluctant to enroll in Medi-Cal because they are afraid that the state will take their house when they die. It is true that California’s Medi-Cal program has long looked to the house that mom and dad have left to their children to recoup public money spent on the parents’ healthcare in the last years of their parents’ life.

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The Top 10 Benefits of a Comprehensive Power of Attorney

The benefits of a highly detailed, comprehensive power of attorney are numerous. Unfortunately, many powers of attorney are more general in nature and can actually cause more problems than they solve, especially for our senior population. This article is intended to highlight the benefits of a comprehensive, detailed power of attorney. A proper starting point is to emphasize that the proper use of a power of attorney as an estate planning document depends on the reliability and honesty of the appointed agent.

The agent under a power of attorney has traditionally been called an "attorney-in-fact" or sometimes just "attorney." However, confusion over these terms has encouraged the terminology to change so more recent state statutes tend to use the label "agent" for the person receiving power by the document.

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10 Benefits of a Medi-Cal Asset Protection Trust

Never before has there been such a rapid growth in people turning 65 years of age or older and these seniors are expected to live longer than any previous generations. Living longer also means higher medical costs. Many parents spent most of their lives working to pay off their home mortgages and they would like to pass these homes on to their children. The federal government gives California approximately $17 billion per year as part of the Medi-Cal health insurance program. Medi-Cal is funded by the federal government but administered by California. Californians can use Medi-Cal to fund for their health care and still leave their house to their children if they plan ahead.

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What's the difference between Revocable & Irrevocable Trusts?

California laws allow you to create trusts that will spare your heirs from the horrific, expensive and time consuming probate process. There are two categories of trusts: revocable trusts and irrevocable trusts.   It is crucial to understand the advantages and disadvantages of each because neither one is a "one size fits all" solution.

Everybody’s life is unique and people have different objectives, needs and family dynamics. These factors will shape which type of you trust you should have . Both types of trusts allow you to transfer assets (your house) to a trustee who will administer and ultimately distribute the assets (your house) to the beneficiaries (usually your son and/or daughter) as provided in your trust. But the main difference between the two types of trusts is that the revocable trust can be changed at any time by the maker of the trust prior to  the maker’s death; whereas an irrevocable trust cannot be changed without the consent of all the trust’s beneficiaries. The trust beneficiaries are the ones who are getting the assets in the trust.

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Medi-Cal Planning Preserves Homes for Children

Aging is inevitable, but lucky for us, medical technology continues to improve, which has increased our life expectancy. As we live longer, long-term medical care costs continue to raise. The super wealthy in America can easily pay for their long-term medical costs and thus the focus of their estate planning is on how to minimize their estate taxes because their estate will be taxed at a rate of 40% of the amount that is over the federal estate tax exemption of $5.45 million per person.

However, for most middle class Americans, one of the major ways of financing their long-term medical costs is through Medi-Cal planning because for them to pay for their own long-term medical care would deplete their lifetime savings.

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The Revocable Transfer on Death Deed (RTODD)

The Revocable Transfer on Death Deed (RTODD) is a relatively new method of transferring real property in California.  It is designed to be a simple way of leaving real property to beneficiaries at death without the need for a will or a probate proceeding. 

The way an RTODD works is that a real property owner signs a deed during his lifetime, providing that at his death, the real property will pass to the beneficiaries he names on the deed.  During the property owner’s lifetime, he can sell the property, refinance it, or change his mind and revoke the RTODD entirely.  The beneficiaries named on the RTODD have no rights so long as the property owner is alive. 

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Most Famous Tax Loophole for Real Estate Owners

Real estate owners buy real estate hoping to accumulate and build wealth for themselves and their families. However, some real estate owners are not aware of the biggest tax loophole when it comes to passing their real estate wealth on to their families.

The most famous tax loophole for real estate owners is the “stepped-up basis”. When you inherit a house, the current IRS tax code gives you a stepped-up basis in cost. Your stepped-up basis is the market value on the date of your benefactor’s death. This taxpayer-friendly rule allows heirs to sell the house they received and owe nothing to the IRS.

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Real Estate Asset Protection

Did you know that you can create legal entities that you can use to protect you real estate assets? This article is a summary of the common ways of vesting title in legal entities that real estate investors use for asset protection.

Three legal entities that you can create are C-corporation, S-Corporation, and Limited Liability Company (LLC). Both C-corporation and S-corporation are formed by filing legal documents with the Secretary of State of California. Both of these corporations are distinct entities from the owners and thus shield the owner-shareholder(s) from personal liabilities stemming from the corporations. The difference is that the S-corporation is able to be taxed directly to the shareholders and avoids the double taxation that a C-corporation brings.

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How Medi-Cal Can Be Dangerous to Your Home?

Many homeowners who are under the California Medi-Cal health plan are concerned about whether their homes will be taken away from their children after their deaths because they used Medi-Cal during their lives. Although, California is one of the most liberal states out of the 50 states, there some traps for the unwary to consider. Therefore, read on because one day you or your loved one might need Medi-cal. Below are some common questions that I have assembled so that homeowners can make wise and informed decisions when applying for Medi-Cal.

What is Medi-Cal?

Medi-Cal is the short name for “California Medical Assistance Program”. Medi-Cal is California’s version of Medicaid, which is the Federal Health Insurance Program for people and families with low incomes and resources. California participates in Medicaid under the name Medi-Cal.

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What's In Your Living Trust?

This article will summarize and shed some light on what a living trust can and cannot accomplish. This article is constructed in terms of questions and answers. These are the common questions that I get in my estate planning and probate seminars.

Will vs. Living Trust: What is best for me?

A Will may not be the best estate planning document. A Will is only valid when you are dead. Furthermore, Wills need to be probated in California. A California court will need to validate the Will. The court will appoint the executor to be in-charge of your estate through the probate process. However, a living trust does not go through probate. A living trust has all the applicable California Probate Codes built into it to avoid the messiness of the probate court’s involvement.

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Estate Tax: Will Your Family Have to Pay?

The first estate tax was imposed in 1797 to help fund a war against France. The estate tax became a permanent fixture in our tax system after World War I. The estate tax is a tax on real estate, stock, cash, and other assets transferred from deceased persons to their heirs. Will your children or heirs have to pay taxes on the house and other assets that you are leaving to them? If your children have to pay, the current estate tax rate is a whopping 40% PLUS applicable capital gains tax rate between 15% to 20%!

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Three Estate Planning Items Everyone Needs

We all own assets in one form or another. When we die, we want to make sure that the assets are properly going to those we love. We also want to minimize any confusion, unnecessary legal fees and stress for our loved ones.

There are three essential items that everyone needs to have in place to ensure their wishes are carried out after their death.

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Joint Tenancy Increases Unnecessary Tax Liability

When a husband and wife hunt for a home, they consider factors such as the neighborhood, the quality of the school district, curb appeal, or the condition of the house.

However, they frequently overlook something else that is perhaps just as important: how they take title to their new home. It’s a fact that most married couples choose joint tenancy. However, joint tenancy will create future tax liabilities if one of the spouse dies and the property is sold.

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What is the difference between a “Will” and a “Living Trust”

Most homeowners do not know the difference between a “Will” and a “Living Trust”. This article will explain the basic differences. In Southern California, if you own a home, you should definitely have some sort of estate planning. Having a will or a living trust is what the legal community refers to as “estate planning”. Both wills and living trusts are documents that facilitate the passing of your assets at your death to whom you want them to go to. If you don’t have a written will or living trust, then the California’s intestacy law controls and dictates who gets your assets.

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10 Percent Deposit?

Are purchasers in a probate transaction required to submit a deposit of 10% of the purchase price in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, or San Diego Counties?

The answer depends on whether your have full authority or limited authority.

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What Happens If You Die Without a Will?

If you die without a will (also known as dying "intestate"), the State of California will decide how your assets are to be distributed. All community property and quasi community property will be given to your spouse. Separate property will generally be distributed according to California Probate Code 6401 and 6402:.

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What Realtors Must Know About Probate

In California, if your client dies without a living trust and his or her house is worth more than $166,250, then the only way you can sell the house is to have your client go through a probate. 

The probate process starts with filing of the probate petition. You cannot sign the listing agreement unless the court has issued your client a form called "Letters". Letters signifies that your client is the official personal representative of the deceased’s estate. This form will tell you if the personal representative has either full or limited authority to sell the house. If you are selling real estate, you always ask the probate attorney to petition the court to give your client full authority. 

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